Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Visions of the Future

In 1979, John Ritter (best known at the time for his role as Jack Tripper, the *not* gay roommate on the ABC sitcom "Three's Company"), starred in a movie called Americathon.

The film was supposed to be a satire, and so they made some outlandish predictions:

  • The People's Republic of China embracing capitalism and becoming a global economic superpower.

  • Cliques of Native Americans becoming wealthy (although in reality much of their wealth would come from the gaming industry, mostly from tribal casinos).

  • Nike becoming a huge multinational conglomerate (In 1979, their "Tailwind" running shoe was just starting to gain popularity).

  • Vietnam becoming a major tourist attraction among Asia's wealthy and powerful.

  • The continued existence and popularity of The Beach Boys in 1998.

  • The collapse of the USSR.

  • The depletion of US crude oil production, which, according to Hubbert's Peak theory, was already underway for several years at the time the film was made.

  • Jogging suits becoming fashionable as "casual wear".

  • Reality television reaching absurd limits. (The telethon includes a boxing match between a mother and son. The son is played by Jay Leno).

  • An America with a devalued dollar and heavily in debt to foreign lenders.

  • The United Kingdom relying heavily on tourism for income (In the film, England is the 57th state with London turned into a theme park named "Limeyland" and 10 Downing Street turned into a discothèque).

  • Network television dealing with previously taboo subjects accepted as normal. (Monty Rushmore stars in the sit-com, "Both Father and Mother", and plays a cross-dressing single father in the titular role. The film's narrative also mentions "The Schlong Show", a game show where contestants are judged by their reproductive organs).

  • Smoking being banned.

It was a joke. None of those things were supposed to be taken seriously. I mean, the USSR collapsing?!? Inconceivable! The writers and producers thought of the most outlandish scenarios, the most implausible outcomes. It was supposed to be funny.

Looking around me today, and looking back at their predictions, I'm not laughing.

I added the links to articles where the satirical prediction has come true. Some of the other predictions are fact, now, as well, but are so prolific and so much apart of our world today that there were too many articles to even pick one that was relevant. It's become universally accepted, for instance, that the US oil production peaked some time in the 1970s, and what's happening now, i.e. world oil production peaking, makes our US peak oil look like a walk in the park.

Another example is the first item about China embracing capitalism. We all know that it's true. Even as we try to think of China as some back-water, Third World country, experiences like the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing show us how industrialized and how capitalistic they have become. Their cities aren't so very different from ours, really, with the exception of the pollution, but, perhaps that's not so very different from our cities, either.

The other two that really stood out were the references to Reality Television getting utterly ridiculous (Real Housewives are "real"? Really? And my dad says that in the "real" world Chef Ramsey would get his ass beat if he treated people the way he does on his television show), and television airing formerly taboo subjects accepted as normal (and here, there are just too many to even list, starting with the above-mentioned Three's Company in which a heterosexual man professed to be gay so that he could share an apartment with two women - and the show pretended like being "gay" was more socially acceptable than unmarried men and women co-habitating).

The burning question, for me, is, what utterly ridiculous predictions are we making today that are being pooh-pooh'd as completely implausible?

Followed by: is it fiction imitating life ... or are we creating these realities for ourselves, and life is imitating art?

Either way, what's absolutely clear that what we're doing now, the way we're living, is not sustainable.

I just believe we can take control, and instead of ending up with The Road, we could have something closer to Good Neighbors (without the ultra-consumeristic Margo and Jerry next door ;).

And, really, is tending a garden, raising some animals, producing our own electricity (and Tom Goode does it with a methane digester running on pig manure ;), mending/repairing instead of discarding/replacing, and not commuting to an office job such a bad life - even if it means we might have to walk a little more, turn down the thermostat and wear a sweater in the winter, or give up cable television?

Personally, I think the rewards of a slower, simpler life far exceed the sacrifices, and this living without a dryer ... really, not so bad ... even in the winter ;).


  1. Excellent post! While I have not read the book I did see the movie 'The Road' and I certainly hope we do not end up in that situation. Everyone should see the movie or read the book and it may be what helps them to simplify.

  2. Excellent post, Wendy. So many people are smug about how "archaic" previous generations were. We mock their naivete, and judge their medical system to be barbaric (leeches, blood-letting, etc)...and yet, you can watch any black and white film from the thirties onwards that gave an insightful look into their lack of naivete on many topics...And what about our method of treating cancer? Bombarding the body with chemicals and radiation, in a futile attempt to destroy cancer cells. I'm sure that a few generations down the road, we will be on the piece of glass under the microscope, and those examining our beliefs will have much to say.

  3. Dang, I thought that was Chevy Chase in the starring role! Loved that movie. When you look at it, the one thing they got glaringly wrong was the United Hebrab Republic. And wasn't Nike an acronym for "North (American) Indian Knitting Enterprises"?

  4. Barbara - the book gave me nightmares. I haven't been able to see the movie, yet :).

    Julie - More and more I'm finding that some of the "older" ways of doing things just seem to make more sense. As for cancer-fighting options, some of the best are the more natural ones (like mushrooms ;), but they aren't as profitable, because nature gives them to us for free, and so what we hear about them is that they aren't as effective as the toxic (and costly) chemical treatments. Unfortunately, since there will never be any mass trials pitting big-Pharm against natural remedies we'll never know if one is better than the other ;).

    Oh, and by the way, there are doctors who have returned to using leeches (and maggots, too, which makes me a bit squeamish ;), because they work ;).

    FARf - Yes, Nike was an acronym in the film ;). I think it's one of those movies we "modern" folk should be watching again. I'm looking for a copy ;).